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Denying the Holocaust

A British historian who describes the Holocast as a 'propaganda hoax' finds himself on the defensive after suing an American scholar for libel.

David Irving says he tells it like it is.

The Holocaust — the genocide of some 6 million European Jews by the Nazis in World War II — is "a propaganda hoax by the British." The notion that Auschwitz was a death camp fitted with gas chambers is "baloney, a legend," he says.

"I'm going to form an association," Irving allegedly told a Canadian crowd in 1991, "of Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust and Other Liars — or the ASSHOLS."

But don't call David Irving a Holocaust denier. American writer Deborah Lipstadt did, in her 1994 book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, and now Irving is suing her for libel in the London High Court.

The preferred term is "historical revisionist."

In a case that is being watched around the world, Irving's suit against Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, represents an important attempt to legitimize a version of history that virtually no serious historian agrees with. Essentially, Lipstadt is being sued for calling the British historian, who is 62, a "Holocaust denier" and a "Hitler partisan" who falsifies history.

The way Irving tells it, he is fighting for free speech and historical accuracy in the face of political correctness.

But very few others see him that way.

Irving has been banned from Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa because of his views, which he has made known in 20 books and in speeches, often hosted by neofascists, around the world. He faces extradition by a German court for "inciting racial hatred." Mainstream politicians and academics in both Europe and the United States have denounced him.

In the courtroom, Irving has found himself on the defensive as well. One key moment came in early February, when Lipstadt's attorney, Richard Rampton, produced a poem that Irving had written in his personal diary in 1994.

The ditty, Rampton said, was sung by Irving to his then 9-month-old daughter:

I am a Baby Aryan,
Not Jewish or Sectarian.
I have no plans to marry an
Ape or Rastafarian.

"Racist, Mr. Irving?" Rampton demanded in the heated exchange that followed the reading of Irving's poem. "Anti-Semitic, Mr. Irving?"

"I don't think so," Irving replied.

Rampton: "Teaching your little child this kind of poison?"

Irving: "Do you think a 9-month-old can understand?"

"This poor little child is being taught a racist ditty by her perverted, racist father," Rampton concluded. Retorted Irving: "I am not a racist."

Those hearing the case, expected to last into March, have heard other damning evidence against Irving. Witnesses described how Irving had been hosted by both European and American neo-Nazi groups, including the National Alliance and Liberty Lobby, America's leading anti-Semitic organization. Others described speeches Irving has given in which he allegedly made racist and anti-Semitic remarks.

Irving, who dresses like a shabby professor, has not helped himself much outside court either. During a break, he told a Reuters reporter that Auschwitz facilities were fakes erected by Polish communists, and described the death camp as a "Disneyland for tourists." In front of the reporter, he "explode[d] into expletives and rage" when a Gypsy child asked him for money.

And Irving denied being a racist, recounting how he had hired several non-white women — including a Barbadian, a Sri Lankan, a Punjabi and a Pakistani — as part of his "domestic staff."

They were all, he explained, "very attractive girls with very nice breasts."